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ID please - black bee with white tail

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Joined 2013-06-25

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Can you enlighten me about what kind of bee this is please? They are small and black, with a white tail. The yellow on the back legs is pollen, definitely not yellow hairs, so I presume they are bumbles and not hairy footed flower bees.  My best guess is they might be the dark form of b. hortorum.  Could anyone either confirm or put me right?

     

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Joined 2012-08-21

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Hi Julie,

Hard to say for sure without clearer pictures.
But am I right in seeing some ginger colouring around the edges of the thorax? The shiny exoskeleton is showing through on the centre of the thorax indicating hair has been lost. The bee is undoubtably female so my guess is that this is an older/worn worker/female B hypnorum where the ginger hairs of the thorax have worn off. This would make sense with the visible white tail and black abdomen.

vicbee

     
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Hi Vicbee, thanks for the reply and sorry about the blurred image.  Yes, there is a narrow band of dark ginger colouring around the back of the thorax. Your suggestion does make sense, as there were a few hypnorums visiting the same patch of garden earlier in the month. 

Julie

     
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Joined 2012-05-24

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Hi Vicbee and also Julie,

I also think this bee is very dark B. hypnorum.
There is considerable variation in Thorax colour within this species;.
Chocolate brown rather than ginger-brown is common in my area; and some bees look almost black except for the tail.

A few days ago I was watching the BBs working a big patch of Chive flowers and realised there was an oddity amongst the B. lapidarius (Red Tailed BB) workers that were racing around feeding fast. 
This odd one was all black but had a white tail and initially I wondered if it could have been a very sun-bleached lapidarius.  Then on closer inspection I realised that the thorax fur had a very dark brown cast to it, so it must have been a B. hypnorum.

I think I took some photos, but haven’t downloaded any yet.
If I can find a useful photo, I’ll add it here later.

Yours         Clive

     
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Hi Clive, and thanks for the info, I didn’t know that there could be very dark tree bees.  I’ve seen a lot of hypnorums around, with the bright ginger thoraxes, but they stopped visiting this particular patch around the middle of June - still seeing them in another garden about 4 miles away though. 
There were 5 or 6 of these little black bees this morning, feeding on the comfrey alongside common carders and the normal yellow-striped hortorums.  Unfortunately they were very camera shy, I might have got one or two useful photos, if so will share later.  With the naked eye, they looked to have short black or very dark brown hair all over the thorax (ie the hair has not been rubbed away), with a band of dark gingery-brown where the thorax and abdomen meet.  I’ve read that hypnorums have short faces and hortorums long - so if I managed to get a clear image that included the face, would that decide it, do you think?  Or does the white tail and/or hint of ginger mean it’s definitely not a melanic hortorum?
thanks again,
Julie

     
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Joined 2012-05-24

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Hi Julie,

Another pointer which might be useful is that B. hypnorum bees tend to work Comfrey flowers by entry from the bottom of the flower, as do B. pratorum, pascuorum and hortorum. 
B. lucorum and terrestris and honey bees work the flowers by floral larceny - through holes bitten through the petals just down form the top.

Face shape will be a decider, since with hortorum it is noticeably long and horse-like.

Clive